Advancement in Spire

ADVANCEMENT

Since releasing Spire, one of the pieces of feedback that we’ve received is that some people are finding it tricky to judge when to allot advances to their players. Advances allow characters to grow in power in exchange for changing the city around them, but what sort of changes do they need to make? We’ll discuss that, and what went into the experience system, now.

WHY CHANGE?

Spire is a game about change, and we wanted to reward players who mess with things. (We also wanted GMs and players alike to not be scared of changing the “canonical” Spire; roleplaying games never survive contact with the players, and settings of roleplaying games doubly so.) So: when a player character makes a change in the city of Spire, they advance. They gain a low advance for a small change, a medium advance for a medium one, and high advance for a serious, lasting transformation on the city.

Crucially, though, the change doesn’t have to be for the better. (And: it rarely is.) We wanted to step away from moralising at players and judging change as “good” or bad” – we’re rewarding chaos, not justice. (Spire is not a game about good and evil, but ends and means.) Also, we wanted to give people a chance to advance regardless of whether or not their actions turn out for the best, because it would be pretty dissatisfying to lose out on getting cool powers just because the guy you choked to death at the opera turns out to have been secretly funding orphanages all through the city.

But: how much change equals an advance? That all depends on the scale and scope of the campaign.

SCALES

Bonds come in three flavours in Spire – individual, street, and city – that reflect their size and influence, so we might as well use those flavours for illustrating change as well. An individual (low) change makes someone’s life different in a big way; a street-level (medium) change affects a group of anything up to a hundred people; and a city-level (high) change has wide-reaching implications for a lot of people – thousands, if not more.

But: these assume a default campaign, and by default campaign, we mean: a cell operating in secret throughout a handful of districts and attempting to overthrow or undermine aelfir interests within those districts. Success on a grand scale would see the city changed – rulers dethroned, buildings erected and destroyed, new festivals commemorated and possibly the odd giant statue thrown off the side of the city. There are other levels of resistance in Spire, such as:

A devoted cell of operatives play the long game and decide to take the Council back into drow hands through years of political maneuvering, assassinations, blackmail campaigns and several riots. (City-level.)

A hand-chosen team of ministers are tasked with taking full control of a single district – the Silver Quarter, say – and given resources to achieve their aims. (Street-level.)

A gang of Knights and a few layabout priests, new recruits to the Ministry, find themselves forced out of their tavern HQ by rival gangs of Knights. To carry on their mission of righteous justice, first they’ll have to save their pub, and the people who live around it. (Individual-level.)

In each of these, the scale differs, so the actions performed within shift in narrative impact. Let’s take the example of the following change: the players publically humiliate a local gang leader, dragging him beaten and bloody through the streets.

In the city-level campaign, this barely matters; the characters have bigger fish to fry, and they probably have bonds that can handle this sort of thing. It’d probably be a Low advance, if anything at all.

In the street-level campaign, this could represent a useful step in the right direction; it stamps their authority on the district and secures them some power. It’d be a Medium advance.

In the Individual-level campaign, this might represent the culmination of several games’ work: gathering info on the gang, ambushing the guy, getting a crowd together to watch him getting the tar beaten out of him, buying off his bodyguards, etc. This could be a High advance, and signal that the campaign is coming to a close – presumably after a fitting climax, where the gang leader comes back for revenge, or his aelfir bosses start asking difficult (and violent) questions.

WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON

In essence, levels of change are roughly equivalent to effort and impact. If a change took a lot of effort to enact – multiple game sessions, risky actions, expenditure of resources, suffering fallout – then the players have earned a bigger advance than they would if they’d just sent one of their bonds off to handle it during downtime.

In addition to bonds, advances are one of the ways that the GM can reward players for acting in ways that they like, and encouraging repeat performances. The scope of the change is secondary to the time spent and importance of the act to the group as a whole.

5 TIPS FOR USING ADVANCES

– Talk to your players at the start of the campaign and ask them what they reckon would constitute a Low, Medium and High advance; discuss it with them, and you can all try to get on the same page about what constitutes what.

– The scope of a campaign can change! Don’t feel stuck at one level, and trust your gut.

– Get your players to plan out their insurrection as a series of low and medium advances leading up to a high advance. Maybe get them to build a “murder board,” with pictures of important characters and buildings written down and connected with red lines. These can change as you play, but it basically amounts to having players do your campaign prep for you.

– Sometimes a bond can be as powerful, if not more powerful, than an advance – especially a bond in the right place. Don’t forget to reward players with new relationships and connections, especially as a means of mechanically codifying alliances with NPCs that arose naturally out of the fiction.

– Bribe your players! Tell them you’ll give them a Medium advance if they pull something off without a hitch, and a Low advance if something goes awry. (It’s all basically up to you anyway, you’re the GM, but it can be exciting to feel like something’s on the line.)

Blood & Dust play report – Session 3

Eoin Dooley has recently been running the Blood & Dust quick-start adventure for Spire. What follows is an account of their second session. Be aware this will have spoilers for the adventure.


Red Row is on fire. A riot has spread through like a shockwave, smashing windows, tossing rubble, and leaving people bloody on the street. The Weeping Maiden’s enchantments were akin to gasoline that the prison uprising ignited, cascading from flashpoint to flashpoint, and now the district is engulfed in chaos. That is what Seiger and Illyria see from their rowboat as they emerge from the depths of Endline. The sight terrifies them, as they know now that the Dust Machines will have kicked into overdrive, feasting on the entropic energy in front of them, so they make for Dacien’s church, both for as a rendezvous and also maybe some back-up praying.

Dacien emerges from the basement of her church, having concluded an hours-long ceremony that saw her enter the first circle of Scryatrices. Her robes, now of fine cloth and silver sigils, juxtapose with the mass of battered civilians taking shelter on the main floor and the sound of gunfire and shrieks. She walks outside, and out of the fracas emerge Loz and Quenelle, awkwardly proud of being top-tier shit-stirrers. Dacien berates Loz for giving in to Lekolé’s influence. Quenelle argues this was needed to achieve the ultimate goal of liberating Red Row. Seiger and Illyria then show up and explain exactly why this the worst possible thing that could be happening, as well as the mechanics of the Dust Machines. The gang realise that they’ve likely played directly into the hands of whoever is behind this, and that a lot of people are going to die no matter what. A gaggle of cast and crew from the Weeping Maiden arrive, begging the party for shelter in the church. They are allowed to hide out the riots inside, though whether the party is now uncomfortable with needless violence or they wish to vengefully extort them later is unclear. But it suffices for the desperate.

The team put their heads together and realise that the only way to salvage the situation is to take back control of the Dust Machines. Towards this end, two plans of attack. The first is to rewire the Machines. Rather than have them absorb and direct entropic energy, perhaps they can direct positive energy which will inspire Red Row, possibly even all of Spire, with Quenelle and Loz acting as focal points for the energy – their prison break technique put to restorative use. Perhaps they could even take the Weeping Maiden actors or some of Quenelle’s fans to put them in the Machines in a strong display of thematic irony. Loz and Seiger will meet with Loz’s retroengineer contact, Jackson Crouch, who was kicked out of the order for his heretical experiments, to ascertain the possibility of this and recruit him regardless. The second is to redirect the Machines. If they can find representations of a more useful target – perhaps the Aelfir council – they can buy themselves space and power to restore Red Row more directly. Quenelle, Illyria and Dacien head towards a manor Councilman Drynn was known to be staying in, to ascertain the effect of the Machines on their target and any other useful information. Loz gives a rousing speech about what each of them are owed by the Aelfir – and notes that oppressed gods become devils. Illyria imbues the speech with arcane knowledge, finding dormant ancestral abilities in Seiger and Loz she will trigger for the assault on the camp. Athelmayas and Madame Cazanoux protect the church, and the final mission commences.

The party boys find Jackson drinking himself to an early death in a quiet pub. They explain the situation and Jackson, even if smashed, is familiar enough with the theory to make rewiring the Dust Machines possible, though time-consuming, and in need of new catalysts that aren’t nihilistic cultists. Easier to make the signal stronger or weaker. Also, if they tampered with anything the retroengineers will be expecting trouble. Seiger says they did a bit but they put it all back – ‘it’ being a person – so, uh, no trouble right? Jackson, frankly, doesn’t care, he just wants the big fucking gun he made back in his hands. The one that sentry had. The one that will be pointed right at them. At least the drunk is eager.

The three mystics, however, find Drynn’s manor a ruin beyond description. The walls, the fences, the very foundations, have rotted to dust and mulch. They step over maggot-ridden guards and hide their noses from the sickening stench of decay. The Dust Machines worked overtime the last few hours. In the distance, they see an Aelfir woman in finery with four Solar Paladins in gleaming armour. Councilwoman Thorns-On-Silk steps over the wreckage and finds a twisted, blind, toothless Drynn half-buried under rotten wood. She smiles, grabs his neck, and needs only shift her fingers slightly to snap his spine, and his skin sloughs off like an overripe peach. It is now obvious who told the guard to work overtime, and who commanded the retroengineers. Quenelle sneaks over to see if Thorns-On-Silk leaves anything that can be used with the Machines – and their hand pushes through a crumbling wall, leaving them stumbling out in front of the Big Bad and her elite guard. Thorns-On-Silk recognises the celebrity, and orders the Paladins to destroy the now confirmed agent of the Ministry. No matter what, Quenelle and everyone Quenelle has known or cared about, will be hunted down, tortured, and killed by Aelfir inquisitors. Dacien bathes the Paladins in Limyé’s calm to stall them, and the trio run full pelt back to the river, abandoning any chance of taking new people to put into the Machines.

Rowing on the river, the party are quiet as they realise how hopelessly outgunned they are with Paladins in the shadows behind them. Illyria reveals that Loz descends from House Yssen, the Unquiet Blades, and Seiger descends from House Malrique, the Unlidded Eyes, who cannot be surprised or ambushed. Seiger sees a plume of smoke behind them that belongs to the engine of a small barge, and a vision of a figure standing at its prow. He is wreathed in cordite smoke, and his only visible facial features are glowing red eyes half obscured by a broad-brimmed leather hat. Two revolvers, black and white, are holstered by his sides. Brother Hellion and his followers have found them too. They row into the canyon-like channels of the Endline river. Illyria knows the place well, and steers the boat into an eddy tucked out of sight around a bend. She smacks on a train carriage and a pile of equipment for infiltrating the retroengineers camp falls into the boat. There is a beat where they realise this boat is the only way out without entering the Vermissian. The party clamber up the side of the river as the Hellionite barge passes, and sails straight for the retroengineers. Brother Hellion shouts a challenge for Seiger, and is promptly shot at by the sentry with the big fucking gun. However, the bullet passes right through Hellion and into the floor behind hm – because no gun can shoot him unless he wills it. He laughs. The Hellionites return fire, and butcher the grounded Knights.

Loz, wanting to draw the conflict out, invokes Lekolé to set fire to the store of gunpowder on the barge. The barge detonates, taking a handful of Hellionites with it, but not the divine lunatic now shooting point-blank at the oncoming swordsmen. The party sneak to the train where the Dust Machines are stored, all except for Seiger, who Brother Hellion spots and attacks. Seiger summarily beats the shit out of him (GM note: rolled a 10 with single die, then rolled an 8 for damage. After Armour, Hellion had one Resistance left). Hellion catches an almighty overhead swing between his revolvers, and sinks to a knee. This provides an opening for Illyria, tracking the zealot with her crossbow from above. She fires, and the crossbow bolt sticks into the mist of Hellion, killing him. Yet, Brother Hellion is no mortal. He is a monster of smoke and fury. The Sage’s mind is battered by its soul, overcoming her and entering into her body. Unbeknownst to everyone else, the mind of Brother Hellion slowly begins to take control of Illyria’s faculties. No matter what, Illyria’s identity will be subsumed by Brother Hellion’s, and her control is slipping even now. The remaining combatants flee, leaving the Machines to them. Illyria tosses her crossbow to Loz, and takes the revolvers from the corpse.

They descend into the reeking, wretched chamber where the Machines do their work. Neither of their plans are possible. They lack new people to put in the Machines, as well as any representation of Aelfir targets. Worse, Quenelle feels a presence the others do not, something watching and whispering to them. Dacien scries and sees inside the Vermissian, with a wall of black, writhing tentacles reaching for Quenelle. The Hungry Deep yearns for the perfect Idol, and wishes to consume them. This was why Illyria had seen Quenelle wandering the Vermissian in a trance – the Hungry Deep called to them in their sleep. In that moment, Quenelle realises that if the Hungry Deep gorges on their perfection, it might slow the destruction in Red Row. It might give them an opening to inspire the people directly. Quenelle moves aside the representations of Drynn, and cuts a lock of their hair to be placed between the Machines. The only problem is time – the Paladins will be here soon. Seiger and Loz decide to hold the front line and meet the Paladins directly. Dacien will wait in the chamber to stall any who arrive, and blesses her love Quenelle with shining moonlight. Illyria escorts Quenelle, Jackson and Seiger’s squire Vennis through the Vermissian. They emerge by the destroyed Voloren Standard barracks, and Quenelle begins to play a new song on the viola.

(GM note: This was the piece used as Quenelle’s song, and it was played over the remainder of the game)

Quenelle walks forward, spotlit by a moon that isn’t there. Their viola pierces the violences around them. A small crowd begins to form behind them, a procession enchanted by song. Illyria stays behind, smiling sadly at her friend, and then turns back to the Vermissian. As Quenelle’s song plays, Illyria walks far into the impossible tunnels, far past anything she knows or recognises, walking as long as she can to drive the spirit of Brother Hellion and his revolvers deep into the bowels of the earth. Illyria Lox will never be seen again, and nobody will know why.

The Dust Machines take effect on Quenelle. Hair turns white, then falls out. Teeth turn yellow, then black. Skin wrinkles. Joints twist. Muscles atrophy. Eyes turn rheumy, then to cataracts. Quenelle plays on flawlessly. Seiger and Loz walk out to meet four Paladins face to face. They sing an old Drow folk song as they do. Loz invokes Lekolé’s rage, a ring of fire erupting around them, he himself ablaze too, and shoots one dead. Seiger charges, but soon finds himself outmatched, wearied and bloodied. He roars his name, causing the Paladins to pause, then turns, declares his love for Loz, kisses him, and then drops his sword to tackle one of the Paladins into the river. Weighted down by armour, the two drown. Loz fires Illyria’s crossbow, then takes up Seiger’s sword to continue the fight. He slays one, but the last Paladin skewers him. Loz grabs the Paladin in a bear hug, and summons Lekolé one last time, as the two are incinerated in a pillar of flame.

Quenelle reaches the church, where a huge crowd has gathered to see the Idol degenerate to nothing, for no cause they can see, though to the Drow among them, the reason is obvious. Quenelle is no Idol now, but an icon of violence degrading something that once was perfect. Quenelle plays their last in the centre of the crowd, and withers away to dust, carried away on the air. The Dust Machines have done their work, and the Hungry Deep has eaten. One of her fans, Molly, who viewed them as a mentor, steps forward with her own viola, and begins to play a counterpoint.

In the reeking darkness, Dacien waits to give her life. She waits for hours, singing softly all the while, never certain if it was time enough, but nobody comes. Eventually she steps out to ash, and finds Seiger’s sword stuck in the ground. When she touches it, symbols of Limyé, Lombre, and Lekolé appear, united as the one true mother goddess, Damnou. She carries the sword back to the Knight-Admiral’s boat, and drifts back to Red Row, alone.

At a later time, Dacien will reclaim the Dust Machines with those inspired by Quenelle. Her church will become an epicentre for Ministry activity. The cultists in the machines will be euthanized, and replaced with Aelfir inquisitors and sympathisers, for they will become torture machines. For Quenlle’s performance did not change the fact that they were caught by Thorns-On-Silk, no, now the Councillor shall wage war upon Red Row to stamp out any remnant of the icon and their final song. The rule of gangsters in Red Row is over. Now far more guards and agents of the Aelfir shall walk the district. Dacien, who began this story as a new recruit, shall lead a cell of Ministry agents against them all in turn, and will not rest until Thorns-On-Silk dies. The Councillor will relish the challenge. ”


Eoin Dooley – GM – @eoin_dooley

Dave Fennell – Lozlyn de Vire – @MysteriousDrD

Jess Bernard – Quenell Laurant – @InfiniteJess

Aisling Reina – Ganford Seiger

Ciaran Monaghan – Illyria Lox

Samantha Keaveney – Dacien Theroux  – @sampersand

Blood & Dust play report – Session 2

Eoin Dooley has recently been running the Blood & Dust quick-start adventure for Spire. What follows is an account of their second session. Be aware this will have spoilers for the adventure.


The gang meet up on Knight-Admiral Seiger’s excessively ornate rowboat on the sewage-soaked river of Red Row, and avail themselves of the very small shelf of spirits aboard. Rowing drunkenly together, they share reports of the Weeping Maiden play and Brother Hellion, but Loz suffered a wound escaping the Hellionites which reveals his old Vigilite tattoos. Quenelle reasonably decides they want to pull over and talk about the fact that a former terrorist is on the team. Seiger suggests a waterside pub, the proprietor of which, Clarence, is terrified of Seiger due to some debt collection work, so free drinks probably.

The party head in, give Clarence a small panic attack, get yet more drunk, and find some of the Weeping Maiden cast having a drink post-performance. Before they can interrogate them, two Hellionites with shotguns burst in and demand the cast tell them which of their Knights cut off the head of one of their sisters. Seiger is shoved behind a curtain, with reminders that it was you, you idiot. Loz, with his Vigilite past out of the bag, creates a “distraction” by invoking Lekolé to set a fire to the liquor display behind the bar. The display explodes. Clarence starts burning to death. Seiger rushes to help but winds up with two shotguns pointed at him. Clarence finishes burning to death. Some fighting ensues. Seiger leaps out the door to try and seduce the actresses as they dash away. One Hellionite has their head shot clean off, but the other leaps out a window, probably to take revenge another day. Loz is recognised as a possible Vigilite by guards on patrol, what with the gang tattoos, shotgun, and sudden inferno, and, knocked out and bleeding, is arrested.

Against the backdrop of a burning bar falling into a stinking river, Illyria and Quenelle figure out the next step, sensibly, is to get out of there. They look over to see Seiger doing a surprisingly decent job chatting up a fair maiden about her work. They retract the plan, and Quenelle plays wingman. Said maiden tells them the retroengineers aren’t really involved in the production of the Weeping Maiden beyond patronage and odd suggestion of magical rituals to manipulate crowds. They actually spend most of their time in Endline, a twisted warren filled with the wrecks of trains and carriages from when the Vermissian used to run, now home for scavenger gangs. Seiger and Illyria decide to investigate Endline while Quenelle meets up with her fans to organise a Johnny Cash in San Quentin type gig for Loz.

Loz, in the immensely overcrowded central lockup in the Voloren Standard, swiftly organises a rally of the prisoners with a fiery speech. Enter Quenelle, now with rather fertile ground for their performance (rolling 5 goddamn d10s for it). The Voloren Standard is a reclaimed shipping warehouse. It is not built for masses agitated by Idols and Firebrands.The prison and guard barracks are both torn apart from the inside, and, with a prayer to Lekolé from Loz, set ablaze. A colossal mob spills out onto the streets, attacking guards left and right and destroying any and all nearby property. Quenelle, Loz, and Loz’s guard contact under Loz’s protection, disappear back into Red Row.

Back in Endline, unsettled by the more-ominous-than-normal atmosphere, Illyria and Seiger row up through the train graveyard, and find the retroengineer camp with hydroelectric turbines powering something deep in a large abandoned train. The camp is guarded by Knights, lookouts, and a sentry with an exceedingly big gun. With the help of an equipment stache that Illyria somehow knew was there the whole time, they sneak in to the train and find a dark underground chamber, with a spotlight focused on something grotesque and foul-smelling.

Three plinths that look like somewhat like computer servers with veins, hooked up to three beds with glass coverings. The air is thick with dust, flies, maggots and rust, and inside these beds are three Drow wearing soiled, threadbare robes, shaking as if in a permanent seizure, thick wires shoved into their arms and legs and stomachs. Seiger vomits.  Illyria learns how these Dust Machines operate, that they feed off the unrest in Red Row, and they are targeting Councillor Drynn (GM note: I want Councillor Thorns-On-Silk to be the big bad because it works better for this group, even though in the official text Drynn is the one in charge). Illyria also recognises the Drow as members of the Church of Absolution, a nihilistic cult that lives deep in the bowels of Spire, that worships the all-consuming Hungry Deep that lives in its Heart, but that, y’know, mostly keep to themselves. The cultists are acting as unwilling catalysts for the entropic force the machines are channeling and focusing onto Drynn. A tense argument ensues over what to do with the Church members. Seiger wants to kill them all. Illyria wants to abduct one. Illyria wins out, and they get so far as unhooking one from a machine but, realising they’d have to sneak back out, place him back into the machine, back to being tortured, and, dismayed, they escape.


Eoin Dooley – GM – @eoin_dooley

Dave Fennell – Lozlyn de Vire – @MysteriousDrD

Jess Bernard – Quenell Laurant – @InfiniteJess

Aisling Reina – Ganford Seiger

Ciaran Monaghan – Illyria Lox

Samantha Keaveney – Dacien Theroux (MIA this session) – @sampersand

Blood and Dust play report

Eoin Dooley has recently been running the Blood & Dust quick-start adventure for Spire. What follows is an account of their first session. Be aware this will have spoilers for the adventure.

Blood & Dust – Session 1

Deep underneath Spire, a mile-high city where the masked Aelfir rule, is Red Row, a misbegotten quarter ridden with crime, drenched in smoke and hazy from the ruddy glow of red light districts where the Drow are allowed to live with minimal attention paid to them. It’s a place where gangsters tell the city guard who they’re allowed to arrest, and a sensible guard hopes members of the competing gangs agree, or takes enough of their drugs not to worry about the issue. It’s been a remarkably stable equilibrium, but in the last few weeks it’s been threatening to spin out of control. A marked uptick in beatings, shootings and serious swear words are symptomatic of anger in the air. Yet, most people are talking about the Weeping Maiden, an avant-garde play that’s the hot new ticket in town, doubly noteworthy as a bunch Knights of the North Docks are running security. This isn’t their territory – it’s not like Red Row is lacking for drunken goons with blades the size of their egos, after all.

To find out what’s going on, a cell of insurrectionist Drow have met in a loft, and, after a brief ritual dedicated to Lombre and the Ministry of Our Hidden Mistress, discuss goings-on. Ex-military Firebrand Lozyln de Vire is incredibly annoyed someone told the cops about the seditious texts he may or may not have been keeping under his bed. A new recruit of his, Lajhan priestess Dacien Theroux is ticked off the Crimson Vigil have been recruiting out of her church, probably because that should be considered Ministry turf and she doesn’t need their goddess Lekolé setting the place on fire. Her secret crush, Idol and former thief Quenelle Laurant is positively fuming over the attention the play is getting instead of them. Vermissian Sage Illyria Lox is rather vexed about someone blocking off her routes into the Vermissian, colloquially referred to as train hell for smart people, and where Quenelle has apparently been seen wandering around in a trance. Knight of the North Docks Ganford Seiger though, is just, like, real happy to be there and has already started on the rum he brought, wondering idly if he should bring up his 16 year old Dagger-addicted squire Vennis for a drink. Given how much the kid has seen when he and Loz go out a massively illegal secret society meeting should be no big deal.

The atmosphere is punctuated by a bullet cracking through the window and into the roof. Loz kicks over the table, shotgun out. Illyria rushes to the window and sees what appears to be an old blind Lajhan firing around wildly with a revolver. Dacien recognises her as Madame Cazanoux, a former scryatrix who didn’t quite make the cut for magical vision after she blinded herself in the name of Limyé, and runs downstairs to bring her in. Loz makes to head off guards coming to investigate, thankfully including a friend of his named Athelmayas who the players decided is Steve Buscemi. Madame Cazanoux is delirious, raging about the goddess who took her sight and the Aelfir that took the rest, but Dacien is able to coax her inside. Athelmayas has been working overtime thanks to orders from on high to crack down and round up criminals, and is totally exasperated to see Loz, but Loz makes everything better with a pouch of silver. Seiger decides Vennis is better off downstairs.

Upstairs, Illyria jury-rigs the ritual material lying around to diagnose and fix the nun. Cazanoux has been enchanted, both with intense anger, and with a desire to see the Weeping Maiden. As the enchantment is broken, Cazanoux snaps, babbling nigh-incoherently of visions of blood and dust and rot and the Hungry Deep that resides at the Heart of Spire and of all-consuming rage and decay. Illyria is mostly unperturbed and finishes repairs. The nun, sweet and kindly now, explains to the gang that her parishioners were kind enough to crowdfund a ticket for her to “see” the Weeping Maiden. It seemed impolite to refuse, and she figured she could listen along anyway. After she left the revolver was given to her, allegedly for her own protection, by a member of the Church of the Gun, which is headed by local lunatic Brother Hellion yet maintains a respectable following due to the incredibly large number of quasi-divine guns they have. It was sometime after she left the play that she started seeing visions again, and attacked them. Sadly, Cazanoux is not the best eyewitness, so the gang split in two to investigate. Loz and Seiger will chat to Brother Hellion in his church on Kiln Street, while Dacien, Quenelle and Illyria attend the next performance of the Weeping Maiden.

The debauched party boys arrive on Kiln Street to see a Sister of the Gun blessing a few beggars with the protection of Brother Hellion, which is to say, giving them a pistol each. Seiger quickly infers that this is probably the person who gave a gun to Cazanoux, and decides to put a stop to this mess. He walks up and decapitates her with his big fuck-off sword. The beggars flee in horror, Seiger stoops down to pick up the guns, and before Loz can explain they just wanted to talk to the Hellionites they are shot at from the church by multiple rifles. They duck into cover, and the Hellionites demand they come out to face justice. They do the opposite, and scarper down an alleyway.

The three mystics arrive in front of the theatre to find a line stretching around the block, with a Knight on bouncer duty, and doors not yet open. After a couple of failed attempts to get in by flirting, Quenelle stomps their feet, reminds everyone that they are famous damnit and that famous people get into theatres. The bouncer and the patrons agree out of sheer shame. They get a stall and Dacien scries on the cast and crew and learns that while they’re mostly in it for the art, they are secretly getting paid a tonne of money by someone. The trio head to the stage where the head playwright, Jessamyn, is shouting at her cast. Quenelle interrupts her to ask her about the play, and Jessamyn is displeased to see an arrogant celebrity walking in here. A ferocious conversation follows, which Illyria takes advantage of to access Vermissian-stored knowledge and determine the relationship between Jessamyn and Brother Hellion. She learns there is no direct one, but they are in fact estranged brother and sister. Illyria extorts the playwright by alluding to her relationship with the gun nut and implies word will get out if she doesn’t talk. Jessamyn, horrified, tells them they receive funding from human retroengineers and the enchantments in the play were their idea. She then commands Knights to escort them off the premises. The trio leave with new information, but are uneasy about the fact that the Weeping Maiden will continue to produce new hoodlums like Cazanoux.”

Eoin Dooley – GM – @eoin_dooley
Dave Fennell – Lozlyn de Vire – @MysteriousDrD
Jess Bernard – Quenell Laurant – @InfiniteJess
Aisling Reina – Ganford Seiger
Ciaran Monaghan – Illyria Lox
Samantha Keaveney – Dacien Theroux – @sampersand

Spire RPG: The Classes

We wanted to share some of the development we’ve done on the classes in Spire – our Kickstarter, which is nearly over – and how they reflect the system and the setting of the game. This is going to be a long post, so let’s get started!

We’ll go through the classes in alphabetical order, picking out one (or maybe two) abilities in particular from each that we feel are worth sharing. These abilities are all purchased in the same way – when you change something in Spire, you gain access to an advance. The bigger the change, the bigger the advance; these abilities are from all three levels of power.

AZURITE

The Azurite is a blue-clad priest of Azur, the god of gold, one of the rulers of the Blue Market to the south of Spire. They are deal-makers and traders, and Azur is surprisingly flexible as to what sort of boons they’ll bestow upon their followers – so long as they can pay. At earlier levels, sacrificing coin can earn the Azurite temporary access to skills, domains, languages and even allies that they don’t have – but the High abilities, as with all classes, allows them to do some weirder stuff:

BUY SOME TIME. [Divine] It’s expensive, but you can buy back a minute of your time. Mark D8 stress to Silver to cast this spell, which takes effect instantaneously. You travel a minute back in time, and will probably meet yourself from the past depending on how far you’ve moved over the last sixty seconds. At the end of the minute, you and your past self meld back into the same person as they cast the spell.

(If you stop yourself from casting Buy Some Time, then things get temporaly difficult. Each of you takes D8 stress every minute until one of you dies.)

Buy Some Time lets you do exactly that – purchase a minute of time back from the cosmos in exchange for what may well be enough money to bankrupt you.

 

BOUND

The Bound draws on traditional animist religions; members of a downtrodden underclass, they are something of a secret police for the poor unfortunates who live in Perch, nailed to the side of the city itself. Most folk in Perch refuse to devote their lives to the major deities, and instead worship the tiny gods that live in their possessions – knives, clothes, ropes, and so on.

For the Bound – a secret police amongst the poorest of Spire, who hunt down wrongdoers and pitch them off the city – they take it one step further, and capture loose gods then bind them, painfully, into their blades. This lets them go things like:

THE SECRET OF FEAR. You rattle the cage that keeps the god bound in your blade, and it terrifies your enemies. Mark D3 stress to Shadow; your bound weapon dice size increases by 1 for the next situation.

It’s not all captured gods, though; our favourite Bound power, and one that almost every Bound player has taken, is the Secret of Lucky Breaks:

THE SECRET OF LUCKY BREAKS. Your gods see to it that you’re never without small luxuries. Gain +1 Mind and +1 Reputation slot. Your bottle always has a little bit of liquor left in it, and your crumpled cigarette packet always contains three cigarettes, and your box of spireblack matches always contains one match. (You can’t use this ability to give out infinite cigarettes and booze to loads of other people in an attempt to make money; the gods will resent the abuse, and cease to aid you.)

We called all the low-level abilities for Bound Secrets, the mid-level abilities Saints (e.g. The Saint of Last Stands) and the high-level abilities Gods (e.g. The God of Getting Even). This has no particular in-game effect but we thought it sounded really cool.

 

CARRION-PRIEST

We’ve been through a lot of rewrites with the Carrion-Priest (and even changed their name a few times) but we’re really happy with where they’ve ended up. While they have all sorts of abilities focusing around their sacred pet hyena, we like this one:

GHOST SPEAKER: Your connection to the World After is strengthened through Charnel. +1 Mind, +1 Reputation. You have a close connection to death and the afterlife. Take D3 stress in Mind or Blood to activate this power for a situation – you can see, speak to, and physically interact with ghosts as though they were physically present in the scene. In addition, once per session, you find a ghost and talk to them about the present situation – ask the GM who it is.

We wanted to try and give each class some scene-framing abilities so player could push the narrative in a certain direction without relying solely on the GM to make it happen; most of them have one in their core abilities (the Idol, for instance, can make a party happen once per session), but we have a smattering as optional upgrades. With this one, we gave the Carrion-Priest to opportunity to speak to and interact with ghosts, but we also wanted to make sure that it’d come in useful in case the GM forgot to put ghosts in the game – and once per session, they can locate the spirit of someone useful.

 

FIREBRAND

The Firebrand is the most recent class – we wrote them after all the others had been settled on and playtested, after seeing a gap in the market for a pure revolutionary type. I think my favourite thing about the class is how their low- and mid-level advances focus around mundane elements…

THE PEOPLE’S CHAMPION. You are the rock around which the rebellion is anchored. +1 Reputation. You gain a street-level bond based on the cadre of revolutionaries that follow you around, espouse your virtues and (if you’ve written any) hold up your manifestos as intellectual principles for life. When you ask this bond for a favour, the stress dice is one size smaller than normal.

… which is all well and good, but given the peculiar nature of Spire, at high levels, their abilities shift to become divine in nature:

THE MEANS OF DESTRUCTION. [Divine] Your touch becomes anathema to your oppressor. Mark D3 stress to cast this spell. Any improvised weapon you touch (i.e. work tools, bolt-cutters, kitchen knives, crowbars, etc) inflicts D8 stress when used against your oppressors for the remainder of the situation, and gains the following tags: Brutal, Devastating.

What that power means is that not only do you triple the damage output of mundane weapons, but you also make them ignore all armour and the wielder gets to roll twice for damage and pick the higher dice. Which we envisage as you walking around with a box of work tools and chair legs, blessing them with the righteous power of the revolution.

 

IDOL

The Idol is an artist and magician whose main project is themselves – every Idol is impossibly beautiful, thanks to a combination of black-market charms and practiced poise. We wanted to make a social class who was so persuasive that they didn’t need weapons to hurt people, and someone who was so beautiful that reality had a hard time keeping up with them. For example:

INCORRUPTIBLE. Your mind is too beautiful to mar with insanity. Your mind is crystal, shining and pure, and madness rolls off you and onto others. Once per situation, when you take stress to Mind, a different nearby character (chosen by the GM) take it instead.

They also have a wide variety of spells that let them rewrite reality (or make people feel so unworthy that they start to rip and tear at their own bodies), but this subtle ability is one of our favourites:

RENDER UNTO ME. [OCCULT] The world is yours for the taking. Once per situation, you can command an NPC to hand an item they’re carrying over to you, and they must obey.

It’s a small ability, but it’s a powerful one; we primarily envisage it being used to calmly walk up to an enemy in a gunfight and ask them for their gun, but there’s a lot of wiggle room there which we can imagine players using to surprise their GM. And who doesn’t like surprises?

 

KNIGHT

The Knight of the North Docks (to give the class its full title) was the first we wrote, and the first solid faction I came up with when I was sketching out the core ideas for Spire this time last year. While almost all of their lower-level abilities focus around them being a load of unstable, pubcrawling brawlers, all of their high-level abilities involve quests for legendary items. (Although: all quests involve finding an ancient legendary pub, so.) We saw the Knight’s levelling as a sort of redemption; they start off pretty rough around the edges (and in the middle, too, honestly) but as the campaign continues they get a chance to go on a quest to heal the sick, reform the North Docks in their own image, or, as you’ll see below, pull the sword from the stone:

PULL THE SWORD FROM THE STONE. [QUEST] You travel in search of a legendary sword. When you accept this quest, you gain the Resist skill and Occult domain as you are ritually branded or tattooed with symbols of chivalric protection. You must journey to the centre of the Spire, find St Beneferas’ sword, and pull it from the floorboards of The Stone (a pub) into which he plunged it hundreds of years ago.

When you complete this quest, you gain a (D6, brutal) magical sword; as it’s magical, you can use it to attack ethereal creatures or those which are immune to normal weapons. In addition, choose two of the following upgrades to the sword

– Inflict D8 stress
– Gain the Ranged tag
– Gain the Stunning tag
– Gain the Defensive tag
– Gain the Bloodbound tag
 – Gain the Devastating tag

And one of the following “upgrades”:

 – Demons and ghosts are drawn to the sword’s powerful energies
 – The sword whispers eerie truths
 – The sword glows blue in the presence of… something, you’re not sure, seems important though
 – You know in your heart that you are the true King or Queen of Spire

LAHJAN

Lahjan means “silvered” in our drow dialect (which was built with a lot of inspiration taken from Haitian Creole) and the silvered are the priests of Our Glorious Lady. One of the big things we wanted to explore with Spire was the effect of oppression on religion; while there are three core goddesses at the root of the wider drow faith, only worship of one – Our Glorious Lady, the light side of the moon – is permitted in the city by the high elves. With worship of the other goddesses driven underground and into radicalisation, the Lahjan have become the spiritual guardians of the community.

They have a lot of your standard cleric-themed healing powers, but also some stranger abilities as well, such as turning into moonlight, reforming their minds into mirror-images of their enemies, or this one…

RITE OF THE THREE SISTERS. [Divine] You share misfortune between your allies. Mark D3 stress to Mind when you cast this spell. You and two allies take part in a half-hour ritual in which your blood is mixed with sanctified mercury and daubed over your heart. Until the next dawn, when you or one of the other participants in the ritual mark stress, it is divided equally between all three of you. If one of the members of trinity falls unconscious or dies, the spell ends.

 

MASKED

The Masked are our quiet social class, where the Idol is loud; once servants to the high elves, they are masters of subterfuge and quiet rebellion. They’ve also picked up the habit of permanently wearing masks in public, as the aelfir do, and combined with ancient drow sorcery and illegally-procured materials, they have access to weird magical masks. These range from black pieces held in the mouth that smother all nearby noise, terrifying copies of their own masks which can overwrite the minds of others who wear them, and the ability to become legendary dark elf folk heroes:

THE MASTERLESS MASK. [Occult] You create a version of a mask that is whispered of in high elf circles – the Masterless Mask, terror of the aelfir, scion of the Red Moon, who will visit their doom upon them. When you wear it, you roll with mastery and inflict D8 stress when you attack an aelfir, regardless of what weapon you’re using to do it.

What’s more, each night a drow in the Spire prays to you to deliver them from their masters, refresh. Ten or so people removes D3 stress, a hundred D6, and a thousand or more will remove D8.

 

VERMISSIAN SAGE

The Vermissian Sage was our attempt to write a bookish mage class whilst making sure it was uniquely tied to Spire; they are wizards, for sure, but they are primarily historians and researchers who are using the reality-warping tunnels of the Vermissian, Spire’s defunct mass transit network, to store relics from their race and explore the myriad potential futures available to them.

One of their most iconic abilities allows them to create a connection between any two NPCs (and let the GM figure out precisely what that is – remember, who doesn’t like surprises?) but we like this one, too, because it let us discuss the ancient noble houses of the Home Nation dark elves without having to do it in a boring box-out:

DYNASTIC MEMORY [Divine]. +2 Reputation. Mark D3 stress to Mind to channel the power of the ancient Houses of the Home Nations, and give you and your allies strength. The first time you use this power on a character, determine which House they originate from by choosing it from the list below. From then on, when you use this power on them, they gain access to the relevant power for the remaining situation. (This spell only functions when cast on dark elves.)

Destera, the Weavers –  Spiders adore you and will perform self-sacrificing actions on your behalf
Yssen, the Unquiet Blades – If you wear no armour, your attacks have the Brutal and Surprising tags
Malrique, the Unlidded Eye –  You cannot be surprised or ambushed
Valwa, the Silver-blooded – When you successfully Compel a target, gain a temporary bond with them
Gryndel, the Crimson Hunters – When you declare a target’s full name out loud and they hear it, you roll with mastery on Fight and Pursue actions against them. You can only do this for one target at a time
Starys, the Drowned Kings – You no longer need to breathe
Aliquam, Repairers of Reputations – At the end of the situation, remove all stress marked against Reputation
Duval, the Grave Cold – By focusing for a minute or so, you may not be seen so long as you remain motionless and you close your eyes
Quinn, the Noble and Most High – You can smell gold, silver, jewels and other items of value

That’s not all – we’ve got a lot of extra abilities too, such as worship of the Hungry Deep (the rotting hole in reality that hides at the centre of the city), the violent and unpredictable drow rebels of the Crimson Vigil, the luckless City Guard, and the hard-bitten noir investigators of the Greymanor Detective Agency. If you’d like to back Spire, check out our Kickstarter – we’re in the last few days!